By Eddie Mayrose
Yankees Have Unfinished Business
Summer officially ended for the Yankees and their fans on Sunday with the clinching of the American League Eastern Division. Despite a wonderful season that saw the opening of a beautiful new ballpark, record numbers of home runs, exciting, last-inning heroics that seemed to occur every night, two or three viable MVP and CY Young candidates as well as the best record in baseball, a playoff run that ends short of a World Series title will turn 2009 into a failure.
It’s the one downside to playing for the Bronx Bombers. Yes, you enjoy the best that money can buy but at a price: If you don’t win it all, the season is lost. Just ask Manager Joe Girardi, whose status for next year is still undetermined despite this season’s success. Or Alex Rodriguez, possibly the greatest player of his time, who has struggled mightily in the post season since joining the Bombers and has become a target of fans’ frustration because of it.
Former Mets GM Frank Cashen once said that the best team always wins the division but the playoffs are a crap shoot. While it’s true that the Yankees go into the post season with some big question marks, namely their starting rotation after C.C. Sabathia, they have markedly fewer problems than the rest of the AL’s contenders. Now, if ARod can just get hot and A.J. Burnett can imagine that he’s pitching for a contract, maybe Joe Girardi can worry about his ring size instead of his resume.
New York Jets Might Not Be “Same Old”
Try as I might to resist, the Jets are starting to nudge me in the direction of optimism. Not so much because of their perfect record but more for the attitude with which the defense is confounding veteran quarterbacks. Attack, attack, attack is the modus operandi; one that couldn’t be more foreign to fans raised on the heartbreak of the Prevent Defense. Apparently, the aggressive style is contagious, as evidenced by Mark Sanchez lowering his head and driving toward the end zone during his touchdown run on Sunday. No sissy-boy slide for Rex Ryan’s QB.
Before I start booking a Super Bowl trip, however, I’d like to see some consistency in the running game. Despite their 3-0 record, the Jets have only been productive on the ground in the second half of their opener in Houston. With a rookie signal caller in Sanchez, they’ll have to establish their ground attack if they hope to keep opposing defenses out of his face as the season goes on.
Knicks Plan For Life Without LeBron James
Finally, the Knicks seem to be acknowledging that they must have an alternative plan in place should they come up empty next summer when players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh become free agents. While it’s true that Donnie Walsh has done a great job in ridding the Knicks of the bad contracts that left the organization no room under the salary cap, that cap space alone does not guarantee that James or Wade will be wearing a New York uniform in 2010.
In signing David Lee to a one year deal for significantly more than Lee was entitled, Walsh established some good will with his young star going forward while maintaining wiggle room under the cap. Besides, there’s this little business of playing the 82 games on this year’s schedule first; something not all that promising to begin with but entirely more watchable with a budding star like Lee on the squad.
MLB Disabled List Doesn’t Have To Mean All Is Lost
Is it reasonable to expect a Major League team to contend for a divisional title when its two best players miss huge chunks of the season to injury; only to be followed to the disabled list by three of the five starters in the rotation? Even if the team survives that initial wave of injuries, it couldn’t possibly stay in the race when a second wave of bad health removes two more power hitters from the middle of the lineup; one for the remainder of the season, could it? Well, if you’re asking that question out at CitiField, Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel would tell you the answer is a resounding, “No”. But, in Minnesota, where the Twins head into Detroit this week for a four game series just two behind the Tigers in spite of all the aforementioned casualties, the answer is, “Why not?”
The Twinkies spent the first month of the season without Joe Mauer, a two time batting champ about to add a third title and an MVP award to his trophy case. Think they might have been two games better over the first five weeks with him behind the plate? Their projected ace, Francisco Liriano, has contributed nothing while serving three different stints on the DL, they’ll finish the season without former MVP Justin Morneau, down with a bad back, just as they’ve muddled along trying to patch the huge hole left by starter Kevin Slowey; 10-3 before saying goodbye to ’09 with a broken wrist. Hard to believe Minnesota wouldn’t have long since iced the division with these guys all in the lineup but, even without them, they still have a shot. It’s a tribute to the excellence of the organization, from scouting to player development, and something for Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon to consider when evaluating the job done by Minaya. It’s also why there should be an investigation if Ron Gardenhire isn’t named AL Manager of the Year.
Florida Gators Lose Tebow For No Good Reason
Bonehead call of the week goes to Urban Meyer, Head Coach of the top ranked Florida Gators. With under eight minutes to go in the third quarter of Florida’s matchup with Kentucky on Saturday, the Gators scored to make it 31-7. To that point, Tim Tebow, perhaps the game’s premier player, had been directing Meyer’s spread offense even though he was sick enough to require two bags of intravenous fluids before the game just to be able to play. Yet, despite the big lead and his superstar’s illness, Meyer chose to leave Tebow in the game; a decision that bit him on the behind when Tebow suffered a concussion.
Now, if Meyer thought that Kentucky would rally from 24 points down in 22 minutes against his Gator defense, he was the only one in the country. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Say there was enough time for the Wildcats to come back. This was a football game; not baseball. If Kentucky made it close, Tebow could always return to the lineup. Instead, Meyer flirted with one of the few things that could derail his team’s run to its third title in four years. Bonehead.